Cheree R. Knight
William Shakespeare is indeed the master of the love and war script. This has been widely recognized in both cinema and dance. Both “worlds” have shown (and continue to show) appreciation for his works and have paid tribute to him. Although students briefly study the author and his plays within the school system’s English departments, very few have had the opportunity to study Shakespeare’s works as students of dance composition and choreography. Shakespeare’s plays can be used by teachers for re-staging purposes or as inspirations for original choreography. I have provided within the film/video bibliography a few of my personal choices of Shakespearean works for dance projects; ie. “Othello”, “Hamlet”, “Henry VI”, and the like.
In this part of the lesson, the comedy/tragedy aspect can really be tested and played with through projects and/or sessions, and dance production works. Consider approaching dance from this point of view. Students may be surprised to find themselves viewing Alfred Hitchcock films for classwork and/or homework for the purposes of creating dance pieces.
Even the prospect of studying characters from Hitchcock films inorder to portray them in a dance production, based on or inspired by Hitchcock mysteries. Something to the effect of “A Hitchcock Mystery Concert”. Teachers, you can take this project anywhere you like. This lesson is about fun . . . . challenge . . . . and more fun!
Students should first view Shakespearean literature and film with which they are already familiar. Some of the works by Shakespeare that are introduced and/or studied in English/lit. classes most often are: “Romeo and Juliet”, “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream”, and “Hamlet”. Students should discuss the dilemnas within the chosen literature/film (guidance from the teacher will be needed therefore the entire class should participate in the discussion as an unit, as opposed to breaking up into smaller/separate groups). once all of the students are comfortable with their understanding of the dilemna and the roles of the various characters, the teacher may wish to form groups of families and/or characters.
Once the students have chosen a Shakespearean work with which they are familiar, the teacher should make note of how the students grasp the basis of the literature/film (you may wish to use both) and its characters. But as opposed to using one of the most familiar works, the teacher should introduce the students to “Henry VI” or “Much Ado About Nothing” for prospective dance selections. For instance, “Much Ado About Nothing” has many aspects that would inspire both the comical and dramatic sides of movement. The students could relate to the themes of the soldiers coming home from war and the courting scenes that lead to the impending marriage ceremony. All the while, there are the deceitful characters who wish to case chaos for the main characters and disrupt the marriage, thereby threatening to destroy the lives (literally) of the parties involved, and so on. The teacher would no doubt find that this selection would capture the students interest. The play and film are wonderful and are a must-read and must-see.
The students may find working on choreography for Hitchcock films to be a great deal of fun. As the saying goes, “everyone enjoys a little mystery”, or something like that! Take a film like Notorious, where there is a spy theme, a romance between the male and female leads (played by Carey Grant and Ingrid Bergman), and the party scene—which would make a lovely dance segment. To see choreography for both William Shakespeare and Alfred Hitchcock’s works performed by dancers of varying ethnic persuasions would be a lovely sight.